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Published by on July 25th, 2020.



Regional conflicts in Nigeria can be dated back to the 19th century when the industrial revolution and the imperialist interest among the developed capitalist economies spurred interest in agricultural and mineral commodities in the African interior. In 1914, Northern,Southern and Lagos colony were amalgamated and proclaimed Nigeria which had been governed by the British. It was in this colonial era that many of the rivalries that later exploded in conflicts were fostered.

According to historian Emeka Uzaotu, “the British had forged an alliance with the Sokoto Caliphate, which controlled the vast area of northern Nigeria using the emirate system that developed powers to traditional and religious leaders of emirs”. This system known as “indirect rule”, secured the allegiance of the Caliphate to the British Empire which, in return, allowed the Caliphate to keep its authority over its subject peoples. Under colonial rule this authority was even extended over other ethnic nationalities in northern Nigeria which had successfully resisted Sokoto hegemony prior to colonial conquest.

Meanwhile in southern Nigeria, the British had a more difficult time. The Yoruba of the southwest Nigeria, one of the three biggest ethnic groups in the country had a well-defined system of government which suited the indirect rule. But the Igbo decentralized system of government so the British imposed chieftaincies, choosing hand-picked loyalists as chiefs. The British later in its administration split the south which had embraced western education and begun to agitate for independence into two regions, leaving the north intact as one region. This lopsidedness gave the north bigger numbers and ensured its political dominance under the parliamentary system of government inherited at independence. This was the stage set for northern dominance of power in Nigeria.

As a result, from the period of amalgamation till independence epoch, the nation has been dominated by the ruling of the North due to the population density of the region. Since 1960 which is almost 60 years now, Nigeria has had 13 persons in the topmost job of midwifing the affairs of the country, 9 of who were from the north (69.2%), while only 4 persons (30.8%) were from the South. Cumulatively, the north had ruled Nigeria for 44years (73.3%) of 60years of independence, while the south ruled for 16 years (26.7%).

Furthermore, my country, Nigeria witnessed 29 years of military rule with 9 military heads of state, 7 of them (77.8%) were from the north and ruled for 25 years (86.2%), while the south produced 2 persons (22.2%) who ruled for less than 4 years (13.8%). More so, there has been 31 years civilian administration with 7 presidents. Once again, the highest number of presidents so far has been from the north with 4 individuals (57.1%) who spent 18 years in government, while the south had 3 presidents (42.9%) who spent 13 years and half (41.9%). This is however without going into further details of all other offices in the political space, military, civil and public service, which are numerous to highlight here, that, were also occupied and is still being occupied dominantly by the Northerners.

In addition, the federation has 36 states the Federal Capital Territory inclusive and also 774 Local Government Areas (LGAs). Out of these states and LGAs, 19(53%) and 417(53.9%) respectively belongs to the north, as against the 357 LGAs in the south (46.1%) in 17 states (43%). Similarly, the number of senators from the north in the upper chamber national house of assembly totals to 57(53.2%) with 51 senators (46.8%) from the south. Also, there are 191 members (53.1%) of the house of representative members from the north against 16 (46. 9%) from the south. So, in a country where allocations are shared based on states and local governments, after the compensatory 13% derivative had been deducted to take care of the destructions unleashed on the places where the mineral resources are extracted. All these gives skewed advantages to the Northern Nigeria.

Nonetheless, Nigeria is a huge country which is rich in natural resource. The Nigerian economy depends on these resources, which is why they are a huge part of many people’s everyday lives, especially those who work in the industrial sphere. We are gifted with resources like bitumen, coal, gold, coffee, kola nut, and oil palm, cocoa and a host of others which are majorly found on the west. Also, the nation is endowed with oil and gas, iron ore, lead and zinc which are found in the east. The northern part of the country is also rich in groundnut, cotton, coffee, and a host of others.

However, of all regions, the east receives far more attention than the other regions when it comes to resources because of the availability of crude oil in the Niger Delta area. When it comes to federal allocation, Delta state remains the biggest recipient followed by Akwa – Ibom which is also an oil producing state, the fourth on the list is Bayelsa another oil producing state. Despite the allocations and enormous amount of capital being ploughed into the region, the state of wellbeing of the citizens and residents could be said to be nothing to write home about. This is as a result of corruption and massive embezzlement of billions of naira being paid as royalty. Indeed, the east and north gain advantage at a point or the other leaving the west at the losing end.

Hence, the goal of even national development which is the bedrock of Nigeria’s federal structure becomes a flying horse. The unequal distribution of power to each regional government had taken its toll on the governance of this country, resulted into inter – region conflict, loss of lives and property, just to mention a few. Moreover, Nigeria currently practices a top – bottom ‘feeding bottle’ system of government whereby the entire country depends on the central government to survive. States, LGAs, communities and individuals depend on what comes from Abuja for their monthly survival. This is exactly what drives the national corruption in Nigeria.

Nevertheless, the trouble with Nigeria is not squarely a problem of leadership but a problem of the structure of our federalism. The structure of Nigeria’s federalism is not only faulty but equally breeds corruption, abnormality, underdevelopment and unproductivity. Until Nigeria restructures its federalism from being skewed to being truly, fiscal, nothing is likely going to work out well for the country.

Over the years, Nigeria had pretended to have adopted a federal system of government, but it is one in which all the basic features of true federalism are absent. These basic features of a true federal system of government include, a decentralization of powers, bottom – top approaches to governance, grassroots economic development, and the promotion of the efficiency and economic viability of the federating units, to mention a few. Under Nigeria’s federalism, local economies are dependent on national regulations, rather than the otherwise. The states look up the federal government for security, education, roads, electricity, healthcare, or even food. This is in fact the opposite of a true sense of federalism.

Therefore, the adoption of a bottom – top approach where everything about government begins from the local level and moves to the upper level is the best way to achieve a pure federalism. In a nutshell, under a bottom – top approach, the villages/cities will have to fund the LGAs, the LGAs will fund the states and the states will fund the federal government, not the reverse. This approach will help to fight corruption because the state governments and their governors will now derive their revenue and sustainability from within, their loyalty and accountability will be geared towards the local people. The people will now have the power to decide which project is most important and prudent to execute.

Another basic feature of a pure federal state is the fiscal federalism. Fiscal federalism is characterized by fiscal relations between central and lower levels of government. In Nigeria, the poor performance of the public sector over the years has necessitated the call for effective operation of fiscal federalism in the country’s political space and policy fine-tuning.

Moreover, the fiscal arrangement within the political the federation will adequately cater for the federating units to enable them discharge their constitutional responsibilities. Consequently, the struggle for control of power an equitable distribution of resources by the component units that make up the federation is driven by the need for balanced development, fiscal justice and fair play. Fiscal federalism has therefore, become part of a worldwide ‘reform’ agenda. It has also become an integral part of economic development and governance in developing and transitional economies.

Regional conflict in Nigeria started right from the emergence of the British colonial adventurism. The northerners have been in power for way too long and this has affected the country in numerous ways. Even states that were created mainly were done by the northerners whose aim was for their personal and regional benefits. Now the big question is “how do we put an end to regional domination?” The answer is restructuring and we can as well start with the appointment of qualified individuals as ministers in accordance with regional needs and not by presidential disposition.

Conclusively therefore, the needs for resources distribution, power domination as well as distribution of power will be equally maintained among the three accentuated regions.

May God bless Nigeria!

*Written by Ajibade Hammidah Titilayo*




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